100 Strand, Covent Garden
London WC2R 0EW
Although I walk past Simpsons on a daily basis, I have never before gone to this restaurant (though I have been to functions in the building). There are many tourist traps in this area (well, most of the restaurants in this area), and I feared this might be another one. Simpsons is located in the Savoy Palace building, home to the Savoy Hotel and Theatre. With one guest for lunch, who was a visitor to London, I decided to risk it (mainly for the historic nature of the restaurant – it originally opened in 1828). We had not booked, but we were quickly given a table.
The decor at Simpsons speaks of Olde English club – which of course, is exactly this restaurant’s origin, as a gentleman’s club and chess venue. The walls are oak panelled, and the lighting chandelliers. Actually, it is very pleasant, and well worth a visit just for the experience. The service is polite and efficient, with no trouble attracting the attention of a waiter at any time. The restaurant has good acoustics too, with no risk of your conversation being magnified across the room, nor drowned out by the conversations of others.
Although Simpsons is best known for its carvery, and also offers an attractive fixed price lunch menu (£24.50 for two courses) we decided to dine a la carte. In fact we chose only one course each, as our time was limited. We ordered Roast Duck Breast served with potato dumplings, confit duck leg and baby spinach (£18.50) and Pan-fried Trout with crayfish & lobster bisque, crushed new potatoes & olives (21.00). We also took as side orders some mashed potato (£3.50) and chips (£3.50). In this case, my non-British colleague was stunned to discover that chips were fries – I had not thought to translate for him before ordering. To drink, we took a bottle of still water.
Our meal started with some warm bread rolls (complementary) which were very good. We were then served a small cup of cream of mushroom soup, which was also complementary. Both were very much appreciated, and very good too.
Great mashed potatoes
My meal was the duck, which I have to say was very nicely cooked. The potato dumplings it was served with reminded me rather of gnocchi – I wasn’t too keen on those. The (shredded) confit of duck leg was quite well done, if perhaps a slightly strong flavour, and the baby spinach was perfectly cooked. Nothing like the nasty spinach experience I’d had a few days earlier at Joe Allen! the mashed potatoes were absolutely superb. The only somewhat negative remark I would make about this meal is that Simpsons does serve a type of duck that only seems to be served in the UK – and is most unlike the duck served in most parts of Continental Europe. This is a shame, as British duck somehow seems, however well it might be cooked, to have most of its colour and flavour removed. And so it was in this case. I cannot fault the cooking, as it appeared to be perfectly cooked and was very nice and tender. But it lacked the flavour that can only come from the meat, and not from anything the chef may add to it. Considering how nicely cooked it was, I would not hesitate to return to Simpsons – and I certainly will. But in doing so, I will choose something else from the menu.
Pan-fried trout with crayfish & lobster bisque
My colleague’s trout was also beautifully cooked and nicely presented. Being his first experience of trout, he was suitably impressed and enthusiastic about that dish.
Sadly we did not have time for dessert and coffee, but considering the good quality of the rest of the meal, I would certainly have tried these if time had permitted. Well, another time!
Cost & conclusion: it was £56 and some pence, service charge included. Particularly compared to some recent experiences in nearby restaurants, I think this was very good value for money. The service was polite and attentive, but also very discrete and professional, so it was certainly worth the service charge – even if it was pre-added to our bill. Our meals came perfectly cooked, and the little touches such as the soup to start our meal were very nice. I will return for certain.